4 Ways to Get Your Towels Looking, Feeling and Smelling Great


There is nothing worse than grabbing a clean towel from the closet only to discover that it does not smell clean at all. I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m going to share with you four ways to get your towels smelling and feeling great.

All Towels are Not Created Equal

The traditional towel that you pick up at your local department store is likely a cotton terry weave. Terry refers to the loop structure in the towel. It’s a cotton material and it is designed to suck in moisture and feel plush on your skin. The problem is,  over time thick absorbent terry towels become not so thick and absorbent and they actually have two key issues: first, they smell; and second, they feel scratchy. The good news is that these are both solvable problems.

Why Towels Get Smelly

The reason terry towels get smelly is because they are made from cotton and cotton is a natural fiber, meaning that it is bacteria prone. Bacteria causes odors if there is a moist environment, such as a bathroom after a shower. If a towel is not 100% dry, bacteria is going to start to grow and your towels are going to start to get a funky smell.

WATCH: 3 Ways to Get Your Towels Looking, Feeling & Smelling Great!

towels and washcloths

Keep them Dry

When you hop out of the shower, you want to make sure your overhead exhaust fan is turned on and that your towel is hung to dry. A hook is not good enough for drying towels because air is not going to circulate and reach the towel the way it needs to. Instead, use your towel bar or some other structure where you can stretch out the towel fully and help it dry quickly. Then, you can place it on the hook later.

Machine Drying

Another tricky situation is taking your towels out of the dryer at the right time. If your towels aren’t dry enough when they are folded up and put into your linen closet, they will start to get musty or stinky.

Sometimes when you take a towel out of the dryer and it feels dry, it is actually still retaining moisture.  That’s because towels are so thick and absorbent. A tip for figuring out if your towels are fully dry is to actually hold them up to your mouth and suck in quickly. I know it sounds strange, but it works. You’ll be able to detect whether there’s moisture there or not. You want your towels bone-dry out of the dryer because if they’re not, they’re going to smell.

Towels on a Counter

Line Drying

If you line-dry your towels, whether outdoors or indoors, you might notice that they come out looking a little flat and they don’t feel soft and fluffy but are instead, a little bit scratchy and uncomfortable.  What you can do is take your towel and just quickly rub it  together to fluff the fibers up again.  Similarly, you can get yourself a soft bristle brush and just give it a quick sweep. Or, if you have a steamer, do a couple of quick passes over the towel to fluff it back up.

Properly Washing Towels

A towel is unlike any other item you’re putting into the washing machine; it’s thick, it’s heavy and it’s large, and it is designed to absorb water. So when it goes into your washing machine it’s going to absorb all of the water and all of the detergents and all of the fabric softener. 

Towels don’t need a lot to get clean and what happens is you kind of get into this thought cycle where you think ‘oh my towels are smelly’ so I’ll add more detergent to get the smell out, but that’s actually the wrong thing to do. What you need to do instead, is make sure that you are always properly dosing the amount of detergent for your load and that you’re not over filling your load. If you’re putting too many towels into the washing machine, especially if it’s a high efficiency machine, the machine is not going to be able to spin and get the small amount of water that it is designed to use efficiently distributed among all of the items in the washing machine.

Say No to Fabric Softeners

Fabric softener is doing you no favors. Towels are so absorbent, that fabric softener, which is a waxy coating to condition your fabrics, loosen their fibers and make them feel softer, actually gets absorbed right into the towel.  When you watch TickTock videos of people laundry stripping, what they’re actually getting rid of is all of that built up detergent and fabric softener. If you really want to have soft fluffy towels, use vinegar instead of fabric softener and make sure that you’re using dryer balls.

Get Rid of Detergent Build-Up

To get rid of the detergent and softener build-up that you already have, run a hot water cycle in the washing machine with two cups of white vinegar and then run a second hot water cycle with one cup of baking soda. The vinegar will break down some of the detergent and soap that’s stuck in the towels, and the baking soda is going to help to freshen and deodorize them. Finally, you’ll put your towels into the dryer on the regular setting so that they are nice and dry, and they should come out fluffy and smelling clean.

Voila! You’ve basically hit the reset button on your towels, keeping in mind that towels do have a lifespan of about seven to ten years. Don’t throw them away, though. Consider taking your old towels to a pet shelter and treating yourself to a new set.

Forget Traditional Cotton Towels: Try These Instead

Cotton towels vs microfiber towels
Cotton Towel Vs Microfiber Towel

For the same reason people aren’t working out in thick heavy cotton t-shirts and sweatpants anymore, and now wearing technical fibers that wick moisture away, you can use more efficient and nicer smelling towels. The answer is microfiber. Microfiber is not a natural fiber like cotton, so it won’t harbor bacteria. Microfiber towels never get that funky cotton towel smell, and if you look at the weave of a microfiber towel you’ll see that it’s a waffle weave. It’s designed to efficiently absorb moisture and release it quickly, meaning that it dries you quickly and then it dries itself quickly.

If you think that microfiber might feel uncomfortable on your skin, you just haven’t tried a microfiber towel yet, like our own Makers Premium Waffle Weave Bath Towels. They don’t feel like a microfiber cleaning cloth, they actually feel quite soft and smooth. They’re just heavy enough to feel luxurious but they’re not so heavy that they take too long to dry.

Beyond the Towel

We have something new to share with you! Makers Clean has developed the Maker’s Luxury Face Cloth that’s perfect for removing makeup and daily environmental build-up.  It’s an ultra-soft and gentle treat for your face, and a great way to keep your skin feeling fresh and clean each and every day.

Many face cloths are made from cotton or 100% polyester, both of which have their problems. Cotton is rough on the face and is prone to developing odors over time. While softer, a 100% polyester fabric is not particularly absorbent. With a unique blend of polyamide and polyester, the Maker’s face cloth is ultra-soft on the face, super-absorbent, and does not hold on to odors.

The new Makers Premium Face Cloth

Now you know everything you need to know about having clean, fresh smelling towels, for life. My hope and intention, is that you never encounter a smelly towel again. You’re welcome.

Also check out this great article on getting rid of bad laundry smells: Smelly Washing? Here’s How to Easily Fix Stinky Laundry!

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Melissa Maker is an entrepreneur, cleaning expert, founder of Toronto’s most popular boutique cleaning service, and star of the Clean My Space channel on YouTube (but she still hates to clean!). Every week, Melissa delivers new videos dishing expert advice on cleaning products, tools, DIY substitutes, and practical, timesaving solutions to everyday problems. Melissa has appeared on the Today Show, and has been featured in InStyle, Real Simple, and Better Homes and Gardens.


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